Managing Partner, Asia
What inspires you about technology?
I grew up in South Korea when it was a military dictatorship. I read a lot of science fiction, which fed my imagination about technology and offered me a vision of the future.
I got involved in the democratic protests when I was in college, and it was three years after the Gwangju Uprising. I was arrested four times and tortured twice. But millions of people joined in, the dictator stepped down, and Korea held direct presidential elections for the first time in history. A lot of my friends went into politics, but I decided to pursue innovation and revolution through technology instead.
What’s the connection between democracy and technology, in your eyes?
Well, technology can be used in all kinds of ways, but I think that you need freedom to have real innovation. When companies are too closely tied in with governments, there’s not room for the kind of risk-taking that lets you discover new things. You see that in South Korea, where the big conglomerates are good at a lot of things, but not at innovation. That’s why startups are so important, and why I’m so happy to be able to work with more entrepreneurial companies through the Vision Fund.
I think our role is really about being a partner and a companion to the founders we work with, which means sharing all of our resources and insights, not just our capital.
How do you see the Vision Fund advancing innovation?
I think a lot of people look at the Vision Fund and think it’s just about the money, because the Fund is so large. But for me, the bigger thing is the support that we give founders to help accelerate their vision and inspiration. I think our role is really about being a partner and a companion to the founders we work with, which means sharing all of our resources and insights, not just our capital.
As a lover of science fiction, what excites you about the future of technology?
I think it has the potential to make human lives better. AI can help medicine take some huge leaps, for example. We can imagine using machine learning to cure diseases. Or transportation—the sharing economy is really changing that. It also has the potential to really improve air quality, by helping everyone make the switch to electric cars, for example.
If you weren’t involved with the Vision Fund, what would you want to do?
I’d like to build a foundation to teach and mentor the best engineers in North Korea. There are tens of thousands of them, but they’re raised to believe capitalism is evil. I’d like to help them understand the healthy aspects of capitalism—entrepreneurship and innovation.
Vice Chairman SoftBank Group Corp, Head of SoftBank Investment Advisers US Activities
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